Thank God it's Friday

2nd October 1998 at 01:00
Monday: I suspect the autumn term is the one every teaching partner dreads. Not only do we have to remember the names of all the new "characters" who our other halves are now teaching, but there's a bumper crop of "celebrity appearances" with the fireworks display, carol concert, Christmas bazaar and "the Christmas staff do".

Mercifully, it does mean that all the educational artefacts we were forced to drag back from our holidays are now in the classroom instead of our living room. Hopefully this year the children will be more selective in the objects they choose to bring in; my partner still pales at the recollection of Celia opening a margarine tub to reveal a dead blackbird, with maggots.

Tuesday: The summer break has not eased the children's grief over Oscar, the school rabbit. His hutch has been banished to the boiler shed, but vegetable tributes continue to appear, transforming the playground into a miniature Cenotaph. There was even a suggestion that the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial plaque be moved to provide a fitting burial site for Oscar, but it was felt this was taking things too far.

Oscar led a charmed life and was on the Child Support Agency's "most wanted" list for repeatedly fathering litters of baby rabbits during the holidays, then abandoning the mothers when he returned to his bachelor classroom lifestyle. In fact, one of his numerous offspring will soon be taking his place and embarking upon a life of being poked with pencils and forced into providing little bunny kisses.

Wednesday: The literacy hour seems to be intruding upon every aspect of our lives. The fridge is now covered with alphabet magnets arranged in strange combinations of prefixes, suffixes, blends and irregular plurals. My partner is also studying the spelling and writing on the postcards we are now receiving from all those lucky people who don't have to go on holiday in August. I am finding all the trial runs of grammatical worksheets immensely taxing and if I am told once more that I keep mixing my tenses, or find red pen corrections on my shopping lists, I could turn nasty.

Thursday: It's evening classes tonight. We're off to become multimedia aware, so that my partner can use the new classroom CD-Rom with at least the same confidence as his pupils. Actually, he has been glued to our computer for the past few nights producing a multitude of signs and guidelines for the classroom, including some worrying posters proclaiming:

"Make Sure You Flush, Whatever the Rush" and "Flush It Away Before You Play".

After repeated floods in the boys' toilets, the caretaker announced that drastic measures must be taken. "Drastic measures" involves the aforementioned persuasive poster campaign and my partner getting into work at the crack of dawn encased in rubber gloves and fishing around for offending pencils blocking the drains.

Friday: My partner comes home laden with tear-soaked tissues - September and October are clearly traumatic times for Years 3 and 4, and all week I have been following the developing sagas. So far there have been friendships destroyed over an open-air swimming session and lunch at McDonald's that "somebody" wasn't invited to, and a playground wedding that was postponed due to a wet playtime and then cancelled because the bride-to-be decided to join the poetry group instead.

As for me, well, it's a question of holding out until half term, when my partner miraculously undergoes the metamorphosis from teacher back to human.

Emma Howell lives in Oxford

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